Lloyd's liability insurer Illium has poached a specialist underwriting team from Equity Red Star to form a new UK commercial motor division.

The operation will underwrite general fleet business as well as niche areas including haulage, coaches, taxis and self-drive hire.

The team will be headed up by ex-Equity Red Star class underwriter John Shepherd and will also include Geoff Walton and Kevin Dawes, both of whom previously worked at the Lloyd's motor carrier.

Illium chief executive Russell Benzies said: "Commercial motor and some of the niche areas in particular remain resilient to market forces. We see a real opportunity with the team we have in place."

Illium, which is best known for writing employers' liability insurance, was recently acquired by US composite insurer Houston Casualty.

Benzies added: "The acquisition has given us greater capacity to diversify into other areas of the market.

"We are always on the look-out for talented underwriters."

The syndicate will start writing commercial vehicle business in 2006.